Driving down the Hume highway from Sydney, the dashboard thermometer tells me the outside temperature is nudging 43C.
The sky is vast oven blue and has long since burned any clouds away. I pull into a rest area and step out into a fierce fernace wind.
By the time I had taken a pee (which I swear immediately turned to steam), my impulse was: screw this. So I peeled off the highway at the next available exit, plunged down the Illawarra escarpment, dodged the city of Wollongong and set my glide slope for somewhere quiet (and 13 degrees cooler) on the coast.
Jamberoo (meaning ‘track’ in the language of the original Wadi Wadi, and Yuiu peoples that lived in the area) is a small village about 130 km south of Sydney.
Set just inland from the coast amongst green rolling hills and curtained behind by the high dark escarpments of ancient Permian volcanics. The small township was built by cedar cutters during the early 19th century. Not long afterwards it was settled by dairy pioneers who developed some of Australia’s first co-opted butter factories.
The village includes a supermarket, popular Jamberoo pub, and a nice little public park/sports oval that has an area set aside for free camping. So that’s were I parked up for a couple of nights.
Usually I would drive through a little place like this and think, this is nice, and watch as the churches and pub and parks and houses quickly roll by, the experience instantly conglomerated into a fragment memory: Jambaroo, that cute little town we drove through on the way to where-ever.
But when you stop and actually take time to look around, places like this repay you for your dilly dally, opening up to show you their stories.
I checked out the historical memorabilia on show in the local pub. I watched a cricket match and some exciting evening touch football. I strolled amongst the well manicured houses back from the Main Street. I meditated by a sweet sounding stream. I noticed a cool free lending library in a small case next to the supermarket. I sat in the cool shade of the park and read as a local unhurriedly hand-watered some of the well tendered flowerbeds.
One evening I met this 70 year old man from Bristol (where I was born!) who is travelling from Brisbane to Perth in a clapped out tiny campervan and who has already had a cornucopia of off piste adventures. He held an exuberant enthusiasm for life that was osmotic.
So instead of an offhand glimpse, by slowgoing I came away with a crisp, well buttered, toast of memories of a proud little township that takes care of itself.